In-store sampling increases product sales

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

Who doesn’t enjoy a free taste of a new chocolate or a little sample of infused tea? It seems that a lot of stores selling food and drinks often have a representative holding a little platter of mini treats. This is because it can actually be a very effective marketing strategy that encourages sales, according to research published in the Journal of Retailing.

Authors Sandeep Chandakula from Singapore Management University, Jeffrey Dotson from Brigham Young University and Qing Liu from University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study titled ‘An Assessment of When, Where and Under What Conditions In-Store Sampling is Most Effective’. They created a model that assesses the short- and long-term effects of in-store sampling on the sales of the sampled product and competitive products.

To create the model, six scanner datasets were collected on four different snack product categories — new and existing — over a period of weeks, and this revealed that sampling influenced sales both immediately and over a longer period of time. Repeated sampling for a single product also increased returns.

However, the impact of sampling on sales was dependent on a number of variables, such as store size, price and all-commodity volume. The study found that smaller stores offering a smaller variety of products reaped more benefits from offering samples than larger stores.

In-store promotions are a common way to market a product, but some techniques are better than others. Sampling was found to be more effective than end-of-aisle displays, capturing the attention of customers for several weeks longer than the two-week appeal of displays. In the same comparison, immediate sales results were also found to be better for sampling.

“Taken collectively, we can infer that the total effect of sampling, as measured by an incremental lift in sales, is much larger than that of in-store displays,” said the authors.

Sampling acts as a way to expand a category rather than substitute one product for another, meaning it not only promotes the brand being offered but also drives sales for other related brands. In terms of a business approach, the researchers suggested that in-store sampling could therefore be strategic for companies looking to increase total category profitability.

But how can businesses weigh up the costs of giving out samples for free compared to the resulting sales? The study stated that it is no longer profitable if the incremental cost of a sampling event exceeds 15 times the unit price of the product.

So try not to feel too guilty next time you’re nibbling on a free sample, because you’re probably more inclined to buy it.

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